Southern Black Women in the Modern Civil Rights Movement
Publication Year: 2013
Throughout the South, black women were crucial to the Civil Rights Movement, serving as grassroots and organizational leaders. They protested, participated, sat in, mobilized, created, energized, led particular efforts, and served as bridge builders to the rest of the community. Ignored at the time by white politicians and the media alike, with few exceptions they worked behind the scenes to effect the changes all in the movement sought. Until relatively recently, historians, too, have largely ignored their efforts.
Although African American women mobilized all across Dixie, their particular strategies took different forms in different states, just as the opposition they faced from white segregationists took different shapes. Studies of what happened at the state and local levels are critical not only because of what black women accomplished, but also because their activism, leadership, and courage demonstrated the militancy needed for a mass movement.
In this volume, scholars address similarities and variations by providing case studies of the individual states during the 1950s and 1960s, laying the groundwork for more synthetic analyses of the circumstances, factors, and strategies used by black women in the former Confederate states to destroy the system of segregation in this country.
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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We received considerable help in preparing and publishing this book. For that assistance we wish to thank a number of people. Without the scholarship and ability of the authors, of course, the book would not have been feasible. We are grateful for the cooperation of the eleven authors whose original articles com-prise this book. Two readers carefully reviewed the manuscript, asked pertinent ...
Introduction: Contributions of African American Women in the
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African American women have played a signifi cant role in the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality since the inception of this nation. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the former Confederate states during the modern civil rights era, from 1954 to 1974. During the height of civil rights struggles, black women, like black men, were foot soldiers in sit- in, pray- in, and stand- in cam-...
PART I: Professional and Organizational Leaders
1. “A Tremendous Job To Be Done”: African American Women in
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The names of Irene Morgan and Barbara Johns are unfamiliar to many students of the civil rights movement. Because historians have focused on more visible male leaders and on a handful of pivotal battlegrounds in the South, these women, like so many others who played important roles in the movement, have been sidelined. As a consequence, few students of the movement understand ...
2. Making the Invisible Visible: African American Women in the
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During a sermon one Sunday during Black History Month in 2007, the pastor at a predominantly urban African American church in Houston, Texas, told his congregation that “overcoming inequality was not a one- man operation.”1 At that I could not help but change my church lady’s hat to my professor’s hat as I thought, once again, “What about the women?” I considered approaching ...
3. Black Women in the Arkansas Civil Rights Movement
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The Jim Crow system and poverty relegated the majority of black women in Ar-kansas to jobs as farm laborers or domestic servants for the fi rst half of the twen-tieth century. Because Arkansas was overwhelmingly rural, its principal industry was agriculture, and its rural African American population had few opportuni-ties to work other than on farms and plantations. It took revolutions both in ag-...
PART II: Bridge Leaders and Foot Soldiers in the Deep South
4. Black Women in the Florida Civil Rights Era, 1954–1974
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Florida’s Mary McLeod Bethune died on May 18, 1955—one year and one day aft er the US Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools unconstitu-tional. She had devoted her life to insuring that African Americans be treated as full citizens. Bethune asserted her beliefs in speeches and newspaper articles, claiming, “We must challenge, skillfully but resolutely, every sign of restriction ...
5. Black Women in Alabama, 1954–1974
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In his 1963 inauguration speech as governor of Alabama, George Wallace pro-claimed his platform for his coming term by promising, “Segregation now! Seg-regation tomorrow! Segregation forever!”1 Wallace made good on that pledge when, a few months following his speech, he defi antly stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama to bar the fi rst African- American students from en-...
6. “Call the Women”: The Tradition of African American Female
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...”Somewhere I read a story, that in one of those western cities built in a day, the half- dozen men of the town labored to pull a heavy piece of timber to the top of a building. They pushed and pulled hard to no purpose, when one of the men on the top shouted to those below: “Call the women.” They called the women; the women came; they ...
7. Women in the South Carolina Civil Rights Movement
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Just as in other parts of the South, black women were important participants in the civil rights movement in South Carolina. In the struggle for social justice, voting rights, and equal opportunity in all facets of American life, these women were prominent contributors. Indeed, they infl uenced the movement through-out the South, and several received national attention for their eff orts on behalf ...
8. Black Women Activists in Mississippi during the Civil Rights
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The modern civil rights movement, 1954–74, was a struggle built upon gen-erations of black activism and the contributions of nationally recognized as well as largely unknown individuals. As demonstrated by recent scholarship, the contributions of the latter group—oft en local, grassroots activists—were indispensable to the successes of the movement.1 In this grassroots eff ort, black ...
9. Black Women in the North Carolina Civil Rights Movement
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In September 1961, Willena Cannon was an eighteen- year- old freshman at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, in Greensboro. Origi-nally from Mullins, South Carolina, Cannon had arrived some eighteen months aft er four African American students from North Carolina A&T sat down at Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro and ordered coff ee.1 When the wait-...
10. Southern Black Women in the Louisiana Civil Rights Era,
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In March 1953, in what appeared to be a harbinger of events to come, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, city council passed an ordinance allowing blacks and whites to board city buses on a fi rst- come, fi rst- served basis, ostensibly ending segrega-tion in public transportation. Whites would sit from front to back and blacks from back to front, and black and white passengers were not permitted to sit in ...
11. African American Women in the Tennessee Civil Rights
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The civil rights movement carried out in Tennessee by black women and men has a complex and an expansive history, but it has always has been about gain-ing socioeconomic equality and human and civil rights for African Americans. The movement, which reached its acme following World War II, had its be-ginnings in antebellum times. In 1780, most black residents of Tennessee were ...
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Stefanie Decker received her PhD from Oklahoma State University; her dissertation topic was Alabama reformer and activist Virginia Durr. She has published articles on African Americans in the civil rights movement in East Texas Historical Journal and in Black Women in Texas History, edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Merline Pitre. She teaches at Amarillo College. ...
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Page Count: 248
Illustrations: Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2013